Séamas McSwiney previews the 68th Cannes Festival (13 – 24 May 2015) and picks out his ones to watch.
Cannes is a leveller where new talent often gets an upgrade to first class. The stardust sprinkles down and less known filmmakers share the flashlights of the enormous media presence that has mostly come to cover the celebrity glam. At the Oscars, the surprises, if any, are planned, predicted and marketed. In Cannes the surprises are real and its savvy juxtaposition of styles, themes and exoticism make the seaside town the capital of World Cinema in all its cultural diversity for 12 days in May.
Of the thousand or so films screening in Cannes, about 100 are selected and invited and, of these, about 20 are in competition.
Irish eyes will be on two competition films with County Kerry connections. Killarneyman, Michael Fassbender stars in a new film of Macbeth, alongside French actress Marion Cotillard, who plays his dark lady wife, and directed by Australian Justin Kurzel. (Interestingly the same trio are the prime players of another 2015 movie called Assassins Creed, a title that echoes Macbeth.)
The other Kerry film is The Lobster (pictured), a Greek-Irish-UK-French-Dutch co-production shot in wonderful Parknasila and produced by Ed Guiney at Element Pictures. A geekily ordinary Colin Farrell plays alongside a large eye-watering cast that includes Rachel Weisz, Ben Whishaw, Léa Seydoux, Olivia Colman, John C Reilly. Yorgos Lanthimos is the Greek director of this absurdist dystopian drama portraying a world where being single is not allowed. If a mate cannot be found in 45 days, one is transformed into an animal of their choosing or released into the woods. All very tantalisingly Grimm.
On the production end, The Lobster is yet another nod to the enterprise of Ed Guiney and Andrew Lowe at Element Pictures. This is the third time their work has figured in Cannes Competition, the previous two being Ken Loach’s 2006 Palme d’Or winner, The Wind That Shakes the Barley, and last year’s Jimmy’s Hall. So it’s no mystery why Ed Guiney was given the European Co-production Award – Prix Eurimages at last December’s European Film Awards. If there’s a stable fit to breed the next Sheridan or Jordan, the smart money is surely on Element.
The opening film, Standing Tall, by French cinéaste Emmanuelle Bercot is a social tale of a boy’s troubled childhood and the endeavours of a concerned judge, played by la grande dame of French cinema, Catherine Deneuve, to save him. Bercot is also an actor and plays a woman recovering from a passionate love affair s in Mon Roi, by previous prize-winner Maiwenn.
Favourites returning to Le Festival this year include Todd Haynes with Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara in Carol, a lesbian intrigue set in 1950s New York.
The semi autobiographical tragi-comic My Mother by Nanni Moretti is one of three Italian films in contention this year. The other two are also by previous prize-winners, The Tale of Tales, by Matteo Garrone and Youth, by Paolo Sorrentino, both in English.
The only first film in competition this year is Son of Saul by Laszlo Nemes from Hungary. It has the particularity of bucking digital trends by being made entirely on 35mm film from shooting through editing. It is the story of a prisoner’s attempt to save a boy through adoption in Auschwitz in 1944.
The Sea of Trees, by Gus Van Sant, stars Matthew McConaughey and Ken Watanabe along with the always sharp and insightful Canadian Denis Villeneuve with Sicario set amid Mexican drug trade with Emily Blunt, Benicio Del Toro and Josh Brolin and Norwegian newcomer Joachim Trier brings Louder Than Bombs featuring Isabelle Huppert, Jesse Eisenberg and Gabriel Byrne.
At first glance the menu is appetising. Cannes is a firmament of promises. Which will shine and deliver this year? Which will fizzle and fade? Watch the space…
Séamas McSwiney is an Irish writer-producer based in Paris.